Time loop tension in The Lazarus Project

Published July 28, 2022

An illustration of a black hole with various colours rushing into it

I love stories about time travel so I was very intrigued by Sky’s new TV show, The Lazarus Project, an eight part series about a covert group trying to stop the end of the world. The premise is that this group keep an eye on world events and if there’s an extinction-level threat, they press a reset button that loops time back to the 1st July.

The neat thing about this is each 1st July acts as a checkpoint in time, so you could have 100 loops that set you back to 1st July 2012, or you could go straight through to 1st July 2013 with no problems. Anything that happens between checkpoints could be erased and redone, whereas once the checkpoint is passed, it’s set in stone.

That sets up potential for lots of narrative arcs - things happening that you want to stick but might not, things happening that you desperately wish could be undone, and, something they lean into quite a lot in this show, the tedium of having to relive the same traumatic events over and over again.

The structure of this series is excellent, the threats, the arcs, the tension of the time loops, there’s a lot that can be mined. Anjli Mohindra and Caroline Quentin are both brilliant, too, with Caroline’s Wes showing understated governance amid hard decisions, and Anili’s Archie hiding her feelings to try and be a mentor whilst dealing with her own stuff.

I feel like I lost faith in the story in the second quarter, when main character George went completely off the rails… the emotions made sense, the actions just didn’t stack up at all. This was a nice guy and grief can make you do crazy things but it just felt too far. However, when those moments were over and the repercussions had to be dealt with, then I guess it felt worth the slog.

And we left on a cliffhanger so there had better be a second season, we’ve gone from time loops to proper time travel and there’s a whole new level to be explored. More please!

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